Lord, I wonder if I’ll ever change my ways

– Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow


When we all get together… that is when it happens.

“Ohhhh, well looky there all of us are here. You know, all corralled together in the very same spot. Everyone just sitting here with one another, breaking bread, having a drink, shooting the shit, and whatnot. Huh, fancy that! Well, since I do have each of you trapped in a booth, in the middle of a restaurant, and you haven’t even gotten your salads yet… say, let’s plan our next outing!”

I trap ’em, booze ’em up, whip out my calendar, and start pinnin’ down dates. And sometimes, I’ll even slip in a few themed adventures if they aren’t paying too much attention. You know, blind side em’ while they’re drownin’ shit in ranch and gnawin’ on their Outback Specials. That’s how you get ’em, you see. Just shove cow in their faces. Men will do anything for cow. Actually, Friendsgiving, Friendsmas, NYE, Charlie’s birthday evening, and Heat’s birthday weekend were all planned during the very same dinner… at Outback.

Great, now that my secret’s out I guess I’ll have to conjure up some new kinda sorcery for any future endeavors.

No biggie though. I mean, we’re not exactly dealing with the cream of the man-crop here, peeps. So we’ll just consider that little nugget of wisdom a late Valentine’s Day gift from me to you. I know, I shouldn’t have. You’re welc. No seriously, anything for you, Ballas.

Anywho, where were we? Ahh, Gatlinburg.

Yeah, so for Heat’s (cough, cough) 29th birthday extravaganza, we went to little ol’ Gatlinburg, TN (said in my best Dolly voice)!

Alright y’all, come on, everybody now: so. much. friggin’. fun!

Eight of us went: Mr. Big and I, Midget and Heat, Byerley and Charlie, and Colby and Kaley. We stayed right in the heart of Gatlinburg. Honestly. We literally parked the car on Friday night and didn’t crank it back up until AAA unlocked the keys out of it on Sunday afternoon. It was two days of family fun and moonshine. Two days we will never forget…


I don’t think any of us expected much out of Friday. Mr. Big, Colby, Kaley, and I didn’t arrive at the hotel until 9:00 p.m. and Charlie and Byerley didn’t show up until 9:30. It was freezing. The wind was blowing, there was ice on the sidewalks, and no one on the streets. We were all starving and no one seemed to be serving food anymore. Luckily, TGIFridays was willing to feed us. The eight of us were the only people in the restaurant. Thank God.

I say that because we tend to get loud. We curse a lot, and belly laugh, and spill drinks, and share food, and fight with one another, and shoot the shit with the waitstaff, and shout at each other across the table, and tell the same stories over and over again. We aren’t the type of table I would want to sit next to in a restaurant but at the same time we are the kind of table I would want to be sitting at if I had a choice. We truly are a family. No meal is a dull meal. We have fun.

After dinner, we walked back to an oyster bar we had found along the way. A karaoke oyster bar. Oh poor little Gatlinburg… have you met Hickory? The eight of us bum-rushed that joint like Bieber would a stripper. I pushed my way through the crowd and stole a corner booth right by the stage while the boys went to the bar for beer. Everyone filed around the table.

After everyone was settled, beer was poured, and mouths were full we focused our attention on the stage. Karaoke is our thang. Well, the boys’ thang, I should say. Anytime a microphone is dangled in front of their lips they are under the assumption they are the (and I quote), “Goddamn Soggy Bottom Boys.” They aren’t. But it’s fun to record them on stage and play it back the next morning… or post it on Facebook.

Midget made a bee-line straight to the deejay.

Meanwhile, back in the booth, Big was flipping out. For most every one of their Soggy Bottom performances the boys are usually very inebriated. Like, leaps and bounds more inebriated than he was at that time. The look of panic on his face was pitiful. He was chugging beer. “Just practice in your shoulder,” I said, his go-to practicing spot for any kind of lyrical, linguistic, or comedic performance. “No.” he spat. “Not here.” Was that sweat beading up on his brow? Geez. Was I going to have to stand in for him?

We downed pitcher after pitcher while listening to each amateur performer belt out their signature karaoke night tune. Some were actually good. Like, the two dudes who battled out 98 Degrees “Because Of You.” Uhh, yeah. They were friggin’ really good. I requested they go back on stage and sing Backstreet Boys to me. Sing, monkeys! Sing I say! But then you had people like Midget and Heat…

Apparently, when Midget went to put the “Goddamn Soggy Bottom Boys” down for their signature hit – “Man Of Constant Sorrow” – the deejay refused to write anything but his real name down on the list. Midget, being the ornery son of a bitch he is, kept yelling, “We’re the goddamn Soggy Bottom Boys,” over the music. Eventually, Midget must’ve taken the hint and given his real name and the name of his fiance.

Here we all were: Big hugging himself in a corner singing into his shoulder, the other three guzzling beer, and us girls snapping selfies of one another. We were just waiting to hear “And next up we have the Soggy Bottom Boys singing ‘Man Of Constant Sorrow.'” But it never came. What did come was, “Uhhhh, Jed? Jed and Heat?” (Their names are Jeb and Heather.) When the music started to play we all pushed Midget toward the mic, and then I hoped off stage to record the five minute snippet of wonderment that played out before our very eyes.

He had requested “Picture” by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock. Not quite sure why, you know, being they are engaged and all. Also, not sure why he would choose a song he only knew 12 words to… and why 11 of those words were, “I can’t look at you while I’m lying next to him.” It was a weird experience. However, when you are the finale act at an oyster bar/karaoke joint in Gatlinburg, TN, not much love is lost, ya know?

That night we laughed our way back to the hotel taking pictures by iced-over water fountains and Momma deer.

When we woke up Saturday morning it was snowing, and cold, and wet, and windy. The side walk was so slick I had to lock arms with Big to keep from slipping. We ate breakfast at the Pancake Pantry. It was such a picturesque start to our day. Well, with the exception of our waitress’ bright yellow bra and the Pantry being cash-only. Other than that, breakfast was delish!

To keep from freezing our nuts off we moseyed into every other little shop we came to. And if they were giving out free booze… well then, hot dayum hand us a communion cup, baby, we’ll try it! We hit every free watering hole this side of the Smokey Mountains: Davy Crockett’s Tennessee WhiskeyBootleggers Homemade Wine, and the Ole Smoky Moonshine distillery. We played glow-in-the-dark putt-putt and bought silly little trinkets in every fourth store we came to. The boys even ate crickets!

And then there was the mirror maze (a.k.a. the death trap). Never do a mirror maze. At first you think, “Oh how fun! We can take pictures of ourselves and there will be like a million of us!” And then you realize everyone’s gone, you’re trapped, and you’ve never been so afraid to see your own reflection before in your life. Heat and I had to enlist the help of a bunch of yippy high school kids to get us out of there… not sure if that helped or hurt the situation. But when I saw a million Byerley’s at the end of one hall I breathed a sigh of relief! I could’ve kissed like a dozen of him!

After that traumatic experience we moved on to something more my style – a photo shoot. All eight of us were pretty much sold on the idea of having an old timey photo taken, which is odd, because we all don’t typically don’t agree on anything. The four of us girls were handed a couple of raggedy bits of lingerie, told to go undress down to our bras (straps tucked in) and underwear, given a buckets worth of thigh-high fishnets to sift through, and were offered up ratty old men’s boxer shorts as cover. (Note to self – Get checked for STDs that were never STed and head lice…) The boys on the other hand, basically just got a vest, some chaps, and a gun. Pew. Pew.

We had a lot of fun with it.


At this point, the group had differing opinions on what to do next. There was team El Cheapo, with Midget leading the charge back to the hotel hot tub for beer and ham sammiches. And then you had the Fun ‘N Hot Squad… a.k.a. the girls and Byerley. We were all about posting up at a cozy lil’ bar somewhere having a few apps, downing some pitchers, and making more memories. So we split up. Big, Midget, and Colby went back to the hotel and Byerley, along with all of his sister wives, headed to the bar.

It was nice – having some time apart. Eight people is a lot to make happy at once. Eight people is a lot to manage. Eight people is a lot of personalities, and bickering, and stopping, and starting again, and bathroom breaks, and “I’m hungry”-s, and a whole hell of a lot of bitching.

By the time the five of us made it back to the hotel it was nearly sundown and the other three had successfully pruned and pickled themselves silly in the coveted hot tub. They had a cooler full of beer and moonshine teetering just perfectly on the side of the tub to avoid any unnecessary trips out of the water and a speaker blasting bluegrass nearby. It was most certainly a sight to be seen. Midget fell and busted his kneecaps on the wet cement floor as he rose to greet Heat when we walked in.

That should’ve been our first sign…

Instead, those of us that were still clothed ran to our rooms and suited up. Luckily, there were two hot tubs in the room – one for the boys and one for the girls. Our tub talk mostly consisted of weddings, bachelorette parties, and makeup. The guys mostly just gave each other a hard time, farted in the water, passed the moonshine quarts around, and wrestled one another. And then, Midget fell and busted his kneecaps on the wet cement floor as he rose to hug Heat when we got out of our hot tub.

That should’ve been our second sign…

The adjoining doors between our rooms were propped open as we got ready for dinner. Heat and I rambled back and forth as we threw on sweaters and jeans, fixed our faces, and piled our hair on top of our heads. She talked to me about self-confidence issues and I talked to her about my weight probs. We rattled on and on about how insensitive men could be and how they could say such hurtful things. We swapped “and then he said” stories and tales of the “you’ll never guess what he said next.” By the time the boys busted through the door we were tipsy and riled up. “Hey, Midget, why don’t you tell MC what you think my best feature is,” Heat said.

That should’ve been our third sign…

Heat’s best feature was her boobs. Kaley’s – her boobs. And mine, well, mine was my face.

That should’ve been our fourth sign…

You may be wondering what all of these “sign”s are that I speak of. Well, unlike most, our group has a very specific threshold. A threshold so fine – so undeniable – it is hard to mistake. Yet, we still ignore it. This threshold is our drunk-n-dine-o-meter. You see, Friday night, we were good. Everyone was on the same playing field. We were happy, and laughy, and fun, and normal. But Saturday night? Saturday night we were tired, and wasted, and falling on concrete, and yelling, and annoyed with one another, and hurting each other’s feelings, and were acting like one joke short of a pack of assholes. We should have never even considered going out. We should have just ate those effing ham sammiches and played board games for Christ sake.

But we didn’t.

We never do.

The Italian restaurant we chose for Heat’s birthday dinner… I’ll leave unnamed. Mainly, because we were animals. Here, let me just give you a quick run down of how everything went:

  • Midget passes out at the table.
  • Big and Colby begin catapulting olives into his beer with forks.
  • The waitress comes by to let us know Midget has to either wake up or leave.
  • The waitress reaches for Midget’s olive-laden beer. Everyone with a penis at the table all but smacks her hand away and yells, “NoooooooOOOOOOooooo!” in slow motion.
  • Someone fishes the olives out of the beer and drinks it.
  • Mr. Big begins thumping Midget in the forehead with a fork.
  • Midget comes to, snatches a fork up, and yells, “If you don’t f*&king stop doing that I’m going to f*&king stab you!”
  • We inform Midget he must wake up or leave.
  • Midget passes out standing up.
  • We wake Midget up once again and tell him to walk back to the hotel.
  • Midget cusses us out, throws Heat’s ID on the ground, and storms out of the restaurant.
  • Heat starts crying.
  • Big promises her everything will be okay. He tells her he has her ID and lets her know we will fund her night of fun. No worries.
  • We try to cancel Midget’s pizza.
  • The food comes and everyone hates their dinner.
  • Colby thinks his Chicken Alfredo came from one of those $.99 bag deals outta the grocery store.
  • Colby realizes his dip can is missing.
  • Colby accuses Kaley of stealing his dip can and throwing it away.
  • I tell Colby it’s a sign from God he should quit. He responds with, “Goddamn it, Miss Clariss, I don’t care if my bottom lip fell off, I will never quit dipping.”
  • The checks come.
  • I notice Mr. Big oh-so-sneakily remove my credit card from his wallet and hand it to our waitress without saying a word to me. No, “Hey babe, I’m gonna use your card for this one.” or “You got this?” or “I’ll get drinks tonight and you get dinner?” Nothin’ just, “Bam! I’m Mr. Clariss.”
  • We begin to argue.
  • Colby leaves to scour the city for dip.
  • Big starts counting up all of the things he’s paid for all weekend long.
  • I remind him he’s been living on my tab all day. But explain the money isn’t the issue. Him using my card without saying anything to me first is the issue.
  • Big asks to see my all-inclusive wristband.
  • Kaley walks away from the table and to the door.
  • Standing up now, I exclaim, “Ughhh, I just want to throw this beer in your face.”
  • “Why don’t you then.”
  • Splish. (I throw a beer on his chest.)
  • Splash. (He throws a beer in my face.)
  • Beer is in my eyes. I can’t see. Heat is crying again.
  • Mr. Big, Byerley, and Charlie leave.
  • Kaley comes back to the table.
  • Heat calls Midget.
  • Midget shows back up at the restaurant to rescue the three of us.
  • He is banging on the window. Donkey Kong style.
  • We try to go to a Mexican bar with a mechanical donkey. Closed.
  • We try to go back to the oyster bar for karaoke. Heat and I do not have IDs. “My asshole boyfriend has my ID,” I tell the bouncer. “We were just here last night. Remember us?”
  • He puts an X on my hand.
  • Another man tries to charge me a $5.00 cover. “F*&k that. We’re leavin’,” I tell him.
  • Heat has lost her ID.
  • Defeated, we start walking to the hotel.
  • We run into our waitress on the journey back, “Did you find an ID after we left?” “No,” she replied. “But I did find a room key.”
  • Heat has lost her ID and it’s Midget’s fault.
  • We’re locked out of our rooms.
  • Mr. Big opens the door to my room.
  • Many people get hit in the balls.
  • Heat and Midget are still locked out of their room and the office is closed.
  • Midget goes through our balcony door, through their unlocked balcony door, and into their room.
  • Everyone is in their respective rooms.
  • I try to close our blinds. It’s dark. I’m drunk. I trip over my own f*&king suitcase. I fall. I take out a lamp. I try to fix said lamp in the dark.
  • Mr. Big starts laughing hysterically at me in bed.
  • We sleep.

The next morning I got up and started getting dressed. While applying my makeup Big padded over to me, put his arms around me, and apologized. I apologized too. And then I started to giggle, “Wow. You know, we really should have our own reality show.” “Ho-ly shit! That’s it! You act like you are on a f*&kin’ reality show! One of those Real Housewives bullshit shows you watch. I’m serious, you really do. Just like last night, it’s like you sat there and thought to yourself, ‘Humm, what can I do to help ratings… DRINK IN THA FAAAAACCCE!'” We both started busted out laughing.

I mean, I guess it was kinda the truth. I do live my life like I have an audience out there watching me. I do play music to certain scenarios in my head. I do talk to myself a lot (a.k.a. give testimonials). And I will have to admit, a good drink throwin’ is always good for business. But that isn’t what was going through my head when it all went down. I promise. After all, he threw a drink on me too… and I could have never planned that.

Regardless, there was no love lost. We were drunk, and stupid, and over it. Sunday was a new day and we planned on making the best of the rest of our getaway… well, after I locked the keys in the car at least.

The eight of us grabbed lunch at a local sports bar. All of us cackled as we rehashed the prior night’s events. Some of us filled in gaps for others. And a few of us just shook our heads. We ate gourmet cupcakes, and told stories, and talked normal, and kept the fighting to a minimum. The dust had settled.

After lunch, a 45-minute hangout sesh with a man from AAA, another round of putt-putt, and a cartoon caricature that looks like absolutely none of us, we finally declared our trip complete. It was time to get the hell outta Gatlinburg.


I think back to our weekend in the mountains often.

We really did have a great time.

However, you are probably reading this thinking we’re a bunch of nutjobs who need to grow up…

And maybe we do, but I like our life together. And to our defense, every weekend isn’t always like Gatlinburg. Our outings aren’t always a shit show. We don’t always run around town acting like a bunch of degenerates. Sometimes we go to dinner, and stay awake to see the meal come, and actually drink our drinks, and then get up and leave all at once. And then there are sometimes when we don’t even leave the house at all. Actually, a couple of weeks ago, we had Game Night. Yes, Game Night. We ordered pizza, picked up Chinese, baked brownies, drank beer, played board games, and watched the Olympics. It was all very PG. This past weekend we made dinner at home two nights in a row! But what kinda material is that to write about? Who wants to read about quiet evening, after quiet evening, after quiet evening? The shit shows are what sells, people. And I’m in the sellin’ business.

So enjoy the laughs at our expense… and just be thankful you don’t have to duck, dive, and dodge at dinner with your own friends.




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